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Old 02-24-2010, 09:51 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Wimberley, Tx
Posts: 197
Year: 93
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: ?
Engine: 5.9 Cummins
How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

Since we see this question more often than not.
The idea is to list your priorities in choosing a bus. With each priority you get ONE sentence explaining each priority and a ONE paragraph summary. This should help with those who are looking to buy.

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. Mine is the example.

Usage - Tailgate, Nascar, home overflow sleeper, rental.

1. Flat front.
Looks more like an RV after conversion and paint resulting in social acceptance.
2. Cummins engine
Because I am familiar with it and parts/upgrades are readily available.
3. Center mounted fuel cell
I want maximum storage/usability between frame and side panels.
4. As big as possible
If your gonna go, go big.
5. School vs. transit
I want to put people on top of a tank and they are cheap.
6. Mechanical problems
Which problems can be fixed easier than others by me and my resources.
7. Body problems
Can dents and broken glass be accessed/repaired/replaced.
8. Price
9. Distance to Purchase
10. Prior history or owner
I bought it from an individual who purchased them from a a school district in College Station, Texas( an Aggie Bus?)

I bought a Thomas All-Star that has some body problems, oil leaks, and broken glass. I had three buses to choose from, which, one was a bluebird that had an additional one inch of head clearance. The fuel cell on the bird was wrong for my application. The other Thomas had some electrical and leaking transmission issues, which, I probably should have bought, but oh well. Notice how manufacture was not a priority....
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:00 AM   #2
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Wimberley, Tx
Posts: 197
Year: 93
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: ?
Engine: 5.9 Cummins
Re: How to pick a bus....the definitive thread.

good question...see edit in post
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Old 02-25-2010, 09:59 AM   #3
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,489
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/AT545
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

1) Engine: (Like djontz) required DT466/408/360 or Cummins 5.9 - all good candidates for WVO conversion.
2) Transmission/gearing: AT545/MT643 (again, djontz has it right) and rear end that allows highway speed.
3) Body/chassis: Had to have high headroom and preferably dog nose. I'm 6'4". I like having easy access to the engine, and don't care if it looks RV-ish or not. Actually, the funkier the better. Had to compromise with the wife, so it also needed to be 3/4 length (~8 windows). And yes, rust must be minimal. Rust never sleeps.
4) Mileage: needed to be under 200K.
5) Age: needed to be a 1990's model.
6) Price: needed to be under $4K, preferably under $3K.
7) Distance to seller: factors into price.

Here is what I ended up with:
1996 Thomas/International, DT466, AT545, Hightop, 8 Windows, minimal rust and 165K miles.
I scoured the auctions nationwide for months and could not find what I wanted, so finally broke down and purchased from a bus dealer in the midwest (2 days drive from my home in Texas). Price was around $3,500 which is not ideal, but reasonable. I will likely sell the wheelchair lift, and hope to get $200-$300 to offset some of the purchase expenses.

Overall, I have no regrets about the purchase, and I'm glad I paid a little more to get exactly what I wanted.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:23 PM   #4
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: New England
Posts: 1,009
Year: 1993
Coachwork: Ward Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/MT643
Rated Cap: 77
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

Usage: motorhome, replacing a HR travel trailer. Had to be backwoods-capable.

1) Solid body needing no major repairs.
2) Cheap...because I didn't have that much extra cash!
3) Long nose & gas engine, because I was familiar with them.
4) Body from a company still in business, because I have already owned enough orphans to know I don't wany any more!
5) Fullsized bus, I wanted the space.
6) Standard shift, because...well, I like standard shift!
7) Highway gears...didn't want to deal with regearing.
8) Local, so I can go over it with a fine-tooth comb before purchace: I don't want to travel 500 miles and discover the bus isn't as advertised and/or breaks down on the way home.
9) No Lucas-Girling brakes!

Ended up with a Ford B-700 I got free, with broken windows, slashed seats, and a cooked 370...repowered it, converted it, with extreme attention to insulation. It's livable in Montana right now or Death Valley in July.

Second bus:
Usage: same.

1) Solid & relatively straight body.
2) Full air brakes...because I like air brakes.
3) Diesel, because 6MPG from a gasser blows goats.
4) Flat-front, FE or pusher--uses space much more efficiently.
5) Front springs, rear springs or air--I don't like front air ride, because they tend to wallow.
6) DT466, Cummins C, Cummins B, 3208 Cat, or DT408 engine, in that order of preference--the 466 is the best medium-duty diesel ever made. The Cummins engines are pretty close to it, but 8.3's are rare and the 5.9 tends to come with a non-lockup AT545. The 3208 is a bit finicky, but OK. The 408 is as anvil-tough as the 466, but pretty thin on power and is a bit of an oddball.
7) Preferably a standard shift (yeah, right); if not, a lockup MT643 Allison.
8) Again, no orphans: I looked at Wards, Saf-T-Liners, All-Americans, TC2000's; a Wayne Lifestar was briefly considered before I realized it failed on #'s 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12, and possibly 5.
9) Tallest interior height I can find!
10) Flat floor would be nice.
11) So would under-body storage.
12) Local, see above.

After looking at about a dozen buses of various types, I bought an International Genesis...more miles than I hoped for (>300,000), but solid & relatively straight (give or take 18 years of parking-lot-rash), the all-important DT466/MT643, air brakes, flat floor, baggage bays, midship WC lift, and the clincher: road A/C.

Optimism is a mental disorder.
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Old 02-27-2010, 11:58 AM   #5
NewSkewlHauler's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Goodland, KS
Posts: 233
Year: 1988
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: GMC
Engine: 8.2L Detroit N/A, Allison
Rated Cap: 65
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

We got a bus because our Suburban wasn't big enough! With 5 kids ages 10-15 and all the their "stuff," going anywhere is a PITA. So we started looking for a bus.

Our requirements:
1) Diesel...reasonably familiar with them. I know that diesels will generally run longer and get better fuel mileage. Since our bus will be used for a 1000 mile once a month road trip at minimum fuel mileage and top speed were high priority.
2) Air brakes...I'm just a fan. To me, they seem pretty air=no go. Works for me. (Although the recent compressor debacle wasn't fun).
3) Size...65-66 passenger or larger. We ended up with a 65 passenger. The current thought process is to shorten it. You can always make your bus's kinda tough to add length.
4) Conventional front's just weird to sit in front of the front axle to me. Plus my wife didn't want the doghouse of an FE to separate us running down the road. A RE is wasn't going to work for what we want to do either.
5) Price...we had a some money saved and we didn't want to break the bank.
6) Transmission...ideally, we wanted an MT Allison. It had to be automatic since my wife can't drive a stick. I don't foresee her really driving the bus much anyway, but just in case.

What we ended up with was a 1988 GMC/Bluebird with an 8.2L NA Detroit (nearly 10 mpg), Allison AT545 auto transmission, air brakes, 65 passenger for $1250. I had to fly to Ohio from Kansas to get it, but I think we got a heck of a deal. It had already been painted silver and black, so that has saved us a lot of money and we've been able to use it on several trips since getting it just before Christmas.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
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Old 02-27-2010, 05:26 PM   #6
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 118
Year: 1990
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: C60
Engine: Chevy 7.4l 454 FI
Rated Cap: 59
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

I started my search for my toyhauler/camper with these points in mind:
1. conventional for easy engine access - this was actually a no budge requirement for me as I didnt want that doghouse to climb all over inside either.
2. International with a carpenter body so I wouldnt have the bluebird "window brows" and a slick looking nose.
3. Diesel (dt466 prefered) & automatic trans cause, well, laziness really.
4. 65 passenger length
5. little rust
6. price of course
7. location

now, what I got didnt meet with any of my goals except conventional and cheap price

1990 Chevrolet C60 chassis Bluebird 59 pass with a gasoline big block 454 and a manual trans, 2 spd rearend. drove 4 hours one way without a single picture to go on to look at it. why such a departure from my goals? Pluses outweighed ALL negatives. traded a old lawnmower for it so the price at this point was free. it has only 9000 miles on it! disc brake rearend I like. the Chevy falls in line withwhat I've grown up working on so I have no learning curve of a strange make and diesel engine. one type of fuel means only 1 tank to supply bus, generator, and my ATV's with fuel. the negatives, If I could change one thing it would be I still want an auto trans, I will do a changeover I am sure down the line. I cutoff my Bluebird window brows so that was easily solved with a couple hours work.

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Old 03-02-2010, 08:35 AM   #7
Bus Nut
Seeria's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Idaho
Posts: 575
Coachwork: Thomas
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

Conventional. Won't budge on that one even if you gave me a brand new bus free.

Use - This is a full-time bus that will be in service for 1 to 2 years, possibly 3. After that it becomes a weekend camper, farm tool, or salvaged.

Rust- Minimal inside and out. Cosmetic rust doesn't bother me but structural/engine does.

Size - I don't want too long exterior or it makes the places I will go a bit harder to fit.

Overall outside length no more than 35'. Living space inside, 25 at LEAST (that's I think a 11 window 64 passenger?)

Engine-tran are not a big deal to me. Looking for something over 450 is possible, diesel or stronger if gas. Needs to handle the Rockies twice a year. Automatic only.

Owner - really prefer direct from a fleet. Schools tend to take good care and have all the records. Gives me some measure of reassurance that the bus is working well from the start.

Price - Under $2k

Distance - Neighboring state but no further. I'd have to rent a car just to drive out to see the bugger, stay at hotels, etc. So really prefer a days drive, no more.

Brakes - Not air! Those things freak me out. Call it a girly thing.
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Old 03-02-2010, 06:27 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: New England
Posts: 1,009
Year: 1993
Coachwork: Ward Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/MT643
Rated Cap: 77
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

Why are you so set on a Conventional and hydraulic brakes?
Optimism is a mental disorder.
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Old 03-02-2010, 08:47 PM   #9
Bus Nut
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Whidbey Island, WA.
Posts: 664
Year: 1984
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American
Engine: 3208 na boat anchor
Rated Cap: 2
Re: How I chose my bus....the definitive thread.

Best way to buy a bus:

1) Buy one of those boxes of wine;

2) Open up that box & lubricate;

3) Get on that interWeb and go to Ebay Motors, Other Vehicles, Buses;

4) Enjoy the moment, bid on something that catches your fancy, sight unseen;

5) Get ready for that wild ride home.

Kinda like getting a woman (or man, depending on how you swing).
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